Born in 1888

July 14th, 1890 — the date of birth that Zadkine generally announced to be born, had for long been the subject of numerous interrogations to us. It indeed didn’t seem very plausible but we had until then too few elements to substantiate our intuition.
Eventually, in 2013 a Russian television crew came to interview Tjerk Wiegersma for a documentary on Zadkine’s life and brought to us an irrefutable proof that finally dispelled our doubts.

In 2005, M. Oleg Lukashevich and M. Aliaksandr Alakseyeu collected some archives on Marc Chagall for a TV documentary they were commissioned. During their research they discovered the year 1899’s registration list of the Arts and Crafts School of Vitebsk (Zadkine’s place of birth).
This document includes the registration with the date of birth of pupil Marc Chagall (July 7th, 1887) as well as the one of pupil Ossip Zadkine, then Joseph Zadkin, followed by January 28th, 1888. Zadkine was then 11 years old. There are few reasons to think that he would have lied on that matter at such a young age. Nevertheless, this very document is most certainly the only one with his real date of birth.

More documents

Thereafter, Cathy Corbett, PhD researcher at the Courtauld Institute in London, shared with us part of her multiple discoveries; the registration form of Zadkine, then Jossel Zadkin, at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1910. The date of birth he here mentions is January 6th, 1888, which would resonate as the Christmas Eve to a Russian Orthodox.

Furthermore, another document, the identification card of the Rescuers and Ambulance attendees of 1914, shows very clearly that the date of birth of M. Zadkine has been ‘modified’ with a pen to finally inscribe January 1890.
It is hence around that time that he decides to become 2 years younger than he really is.

As we can see, Zadkine didn’t hesitate to take a few liberties with reality. January 28th 1888, January 6th 1888, July 4th or also July 14th (France’s National day) so many dates of birth for one single man — a man undeniably endowed with a lot of fantasy and imagination.